By D. G. GAL YIN
IN one of his earlier books
Ronald Knox shrewdly asks: " ls it not our experience that while men are in health, their health is the last subject which preoccupies them; that it is only when symptoms of age and decay begin to set in that they air their maladies for inspection?"
Since the end of the war we have had the Denning Report on Marriage and Divorce and the Curtis Report on Child Welfare; we are still digesting the findings of the Royal Commission on Population as a similar inquiry is proceeding on the subject of Gambling.
Now the Report of the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police on child crime during 1948 has given a shock to complacency. During the last ten years the number of children arrested for indictable crimes has increased by nearly 50 per cent.
The implications are so grave that at a recent London conference, professors and psychiatrists supported a proposal to set up a special institute to deal with this social evil.
MANY reasons are giveu for the loosening of family ties and the decline in morality among the younger generation.
While some blame the parents, others point to the war years, un
desirable books and films, restrictions and controls, and so on.
But is not that begging the question-and confusing symptoms with causes?
One may deplore the prevalence of the sex-appeal films but what causes men to produce them 7 Has pornographic literature forced its con-uptive attentions upon sections of our youth or is it but a reflection of a state of mind which was already there ?
Lack of parental control may be one of the reason why adolescents prefer the Hippodrome to the hearth but as Cardinal Griffin has said : " We must go back further for an explanation. We must blame the false principles which the parents of today received from their educators."
The first blows against the sanctity of the family were the divorce laws of 1857. Indeed some jurists hold that as from then England ceased to be a Christian State. For, by recognising the dissolubility of marriage, the enactment at once departed from the time honoured common law of the land : that the State is founded on the Christian concept of marriage and the propagation of the race.
By striking at the very roots of family life, the State unconsciously prepared the way for those pathological defects of somal life today, reflected in the figures of some 50,000 divorces each year (the figure for 1947 is 60,000) with their immeasurable consequences to homes and children.
Units in Utopia
OUR system of mass education, forgetting that children have immortal souls, is training them as units in the new utopia.
Sir Richard Livingstone. perhaps our greatest living educationist, has stressed with some urgency that " neither mind nor character can be made without a spiritual element. That is just the element which has -grown weak, where it has not perished in our education, and therefore in our civilisation, with disastrous results."
For, where there is no such balancing influence in home and school, the tendency is for the child to become more and more the responsibility of the educational machine and less of the parent; and youth enters life without the discipline of the Christian family virtues and becomes the ready prey of the blandishments of a world dedicated to the god of material gain.
Nevertheless, it is all to the good that the increase in child crime is stirring our social conscience. '
But the evil will never be cornpletely conquered unless it is realised that such steps, however well conceived, can only be in the nature of a palliative; the cure can only come by seeing juvenile delinquency as a symptom of a greater disease, and acting accordingly. As Chesterton would say, we must not only see the spot on the carpet, but the carpet as a whole.
CHILD crime is a black spot on our social fabric, but it has not got there by accident.
It is a link in a chain of events which started with the rejection of an authoritative Christian moral law in favour of private persuasion, to be followed by rationalism and so on to the widespread scepticism of today. It is, in fact, a syntplont of the loss of the sense of God and the natural law.
Unless we approach the question of delinquency (not to mention our other social problems) with this vital first principle firmly embedded in our minds we shall never erase the black spots from the fabric of national life.
For, the social consequences of our spiritual malaise are so complex and interrelated, and our ways of thought so moulded by our materialistic environment, that we must first avail ourselves of the lessons of history and resin a faith in the transcendence of spiritual values if we are to acquire that sense of proportion which will enable us to distinguish the sympton from the disease, cause from effect, the chhemeral from the eternal.
You cannot effectively remove the stain of juvenile delinquency and yet at the same time tolerate divorce or bion control. For each is a link in a chain of cause and effect.
Thus divorce is an effect of our loss of moral standards yet a cause of broken homes; the decay of family life is an effect of divorce but it is also a cause of juvenile crime.
Our secular educational system is the effect of the ideas propagated by nineteenth century agnostics and the cause of so many of our young people today having to face the hazards of life without the least sense of the purpose of life.
There are other subsidiary causes and effects-dubious literature and films, mothers working in factories, the multiplicity of controls, etc.each playing upon the other and aggravating the whole.
THERE can be only one true diagnosis of these ills.
They are the effect of the rejection of the natural law of God as the basis of society. If social reformers are really in earnest when they say our problems are basically spiritual and moral ones, then they must have the courage of their convictions by denouncing divorce as well as delinquency, birth control as well as lack of parental control.
Here the critic of the Church may well say : That is all very well, but what about the high proportion of Catholics among the numbers of juvenile delinquents ? Did they not have the advantage of a Christian home life and schooling ?
And although the Catholic could reply, with truth, that Catholicism in England is confined mostly to the poorer classes, who are concentrated in those depressing industrial areas where the opportunities for delinquency abound, he would still be left with the uncomfortable feeling that that was not the whole explanation.
The deeper causes, it must be admitted, lie in the realm of the Catholic school and home.
The great.criticism to be brought against so many of our schools is not that they have failed to provide a sound doctrinal grounding in the Faith, but rather that they have failed to impregnate Catholics as a whole with that very important quality, a Catholic mind; that second nature of our being which not only assists us to withstand the allurements of a materialistic environment but, what is more, enables each one of us. in varying measure, to impart an integrated Christian critique to all the problems of home life and to the life of the secular world outside.
BUT if Catholic education in this country has fallen short of that ideal, it is not without honour.
For the last eighty years the Church of the Second Spring has been engaged in a desperate battle for the very preservation of her schools, let alone evolve new techniques in teaching.
In a hundred years time men will remember her not for the delinquents she was said to produce. but for the fact that where others had fallen by the wayside she stood alone for the primacy of spiritual values in the whole concept of Education. And they will be listening to her with a new respect. for unlike the roots of the world's delinquency, " she lays her foundations in something other, which something other our moderns hate."